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Athletes & Ethics

Traditionally, professional athletes were role models both on and off the playing field and court. A true passion for the game being played was the defining characteristic of the majority of players, despite the occasional off-field antics of immortals like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. Still, compared with today’s violence, lack of loyalty, erosion of morality, and increasingly self-interested behavior in professional athletes, athletes of yesteryear remind us of the days when players like Jim Brown and Gayle Sayers were role models on and off the field. As James Michener (195) relates in his Sports In America, it was easy for millions of youth to identify with figures like these because they had not only athletic talent and financial success but also the respect of an entire nation “It would be reasonable for any young black to dream of being a Willie Mays or a Jim Brown or a Bill Russell, for these extraordinary men had not only the approbation of an entire society but also a financial success which should keep them solvent for the rest of their lives.”

When athletes like Gayle Sayers played the game of football, players were loyal to their teams but they also recognized the importance of promoting morality and right conduct off the field. They recognized their impact on society at large and young people “It required more than physical superiority for a Bill Russell or a Gayle Sayers to excel” (Michener 210). In other words, ethical conduct and moral behavior allowed these athletes to not only represent the best the game had to offer, but also the best humanity can offer. As such, they broke down stereotypes more than all the civil rights legislation enacted during the 20th century. Further, players like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan had long successful careers at the top of their game and rarely, if ever, attracted the attention of the law. Players talked to fans who came early, signed autograph books ...

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Athletes & Ethics. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 17:16, December 07, 2021, from